My public library had this book and so I picked it up seeing that it was Palestinian authored fantasy, and I am always on the lookout to support OWN voice Palestinian stories. The book cover is gorgeous, the inside text unfortunately is tiny making this middle school aged book only 110 pages. It is translated from Arabic and published by a university, so my expectations were pretty meager which assisted in me being fully swept away by the story at hand. Sure the book has a few glitches in point of view, often it feels a bit abrupt and djinn stories are a dime a dozen, but what elevated this book and made it stand out was the Palestinian history interwoven into the plot: snippets about the Mamluk soldiers and Ottomans, the Ayyubid rulers and walls around Jerusalem. There isn’t enough history touched upon in my opinion, but I look forward to see, now that the world building is established, if the rest of the series will highlight the historical thread. I have no idea if the characters or author are Muslim, there are references to praying and hearing the athan, but they could just be cultural. There is magic, fantasy, djinn, prophecies, and reading of tea leaves, as well as fighting, assault, and talk of oppression under Israeli rule. I’d assume it is advanced Middle Grade or lower YA, but to me it seems 11 and up would enjoy the quick fast paced read.
Noor’s parents are dead, and she lives with a grandmother who loves her, and an uncle and his family who don’t. When her grandma dies, Noor is alone and with things combusting in to flames around her and no one left to defend her claims that it wasn’t her, Noor is trying to piece together a ring left to her, her mother’s research, and her flame creation abilities. Her search leads her to a colleague of her mother’s and an old archaeological site. While staying with an aunt in Jericho over the holidays, a mysterious cat guides her to the same archeological site where the cat reveals that she is really a djinn. The barrier between the seen and unseen world is failing, and Noor is prophesized to be the only one that can ensure it doesn’t happen. With a trait of the mythical phoenix Noor must find ways to travel in time and retrieve a feather before the bird is reborn. Along the way she will have the help of the djinn and of her doppelgänger from that time period.
WHY I LIKE IT:
The story is clever, fast paced, and the character endearing. I wish the details were fleshed out and of course I wish there was more history when she travels back in time. The climaxes are quick builds and even quicker resolutions, but despite all the flaws I really enjoyed the story and look forward to the rest of the series. The book ends on a cliff hanger that feels rather abrupt, but being it is clearly established as book one in a trilogy, I don’t think readers will be too upset at the sudden end.
Magic, time travel, prophesies, fortune telling, assault, oppression, fighting, loss, arson, arguing, djinn, fighting
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
The book probably is too short for a book club read, but I think a teacher could definitely use it as a reference in story writing, historical fiction fantasy, culture inclusion lessons. If you wanted to use the book, you’d be able to find plenty to draw on for teachable moments in literature, history, and writing style. There would also be a lot to discuss in terms of occupation, myth, legend, and culture.
If your library doesn’t have it you can find it on Amazon